I went into this movie expecting very little except for the fact that I like Jason Statham. What I got was an action filled romp slightly better and slightly deeper than my expectations. It was not low budget, because they clearly burned a lot of money on the extravagant race battle scenes, but it had a little of that feel.
Jason Statham is usually cast as an extremely competant average Joe who you do not want to mess with and just wants to be left alone/do his job. Well his casting in Death Race is no exception. He plays a sympathetic guy who gets wronged and railroaded into the death race. Throughout this journey he will do what he does best and what viewers have come to expect from him; drive well and beat up thugs.
Everybody likes to see bullies get whats coming to them. In the prison setting Statham is dropped into, there is ample opportunity for him to show off his moves. It is like locking MacGuyver in a tool shed. Statham is a natural on the screen when it comes to flinging fists and feet. It is believable and entertaining.
The driving sequences were well done. The production took them seriously and it showed. There are plenty of explosions, twists, and a couple quick gory shots. The full-sized prop vehicles sold the action. The surprise inclusion of a weapon festooned big rig was entertaining.
Of course hotties from the all girl prison have to act as co-pilots. Sure why not, throw in a little sex appeal and potential romance. That also ends up playing into the fact that Death Race had a little more heart than I was expecting.
There is a whole family sub-plot which drives Statham’s character. There is also the sort-of family that grows within prison walls. The “Coach” character did a surprisingly good job bringing that to the fore in an unobtrusive way. He was also responsible for some of the dry humor the film displayed. That was unexpected and seemingly out of place, yet it worked.
Is Death Race a sequel to the 1975 film Death Race 2000? No. It is a stand alone piece built loosly on the 1975 premise.
Is the overall plot of Death Race shallow? Hello, the movie is called Death Race. Yes it is thin. Were you expecting King Lear? No of course not. Go in with lowered expectations and you will do okay. It certainly is a must for any Jason Statham fan. Death Race will surprise you with good action and more-than-expected heart.